Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Toward Community: An architecture of engagement

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posted on 2023-05-02, 10:37 authored by Hill-Smith, Reuben

Te Hanga Ora: a new vision for social housing built on an architecture of engagementThe failings of legacy social housing architecture scar communities across the country. New Zealand’s social housing stock is neither desirable nor dignified - and yet, we haven’t built enough of it! A new vision is for social housing needs to be accessible, to respect the dignity of its inhabitants, and to facilitate social interaction. It should be designed from the ground up to support the social bonds that are the building blocks of healthy communities. This thesis proposes a new vision for social housing: Te Hanga Ora.

Incorporating principles from trauma-informed architecture, universal accessibility principles and informed by engagement simulations using Fluid Sociability, Te Hanga Ora is built to inspire community.

Te Hanga Ora is a medium-density concept apartment building providing single, and double-bedroom apartments, for the 80% of the social housing register deemed to need such spaces. It incorporates an innovative approach to fostering community. It uses a mix of spatial continuity across indoor and outdoor environments, flexible social spaces on a spectrum from public to private and a rooftop community garden to promote social engagement. Te Hanga Ora has been designed illustratively for a site in Kilbirnie, Wellington but is presented as a scalable blueprint for national application.

Te Hanga Ora finds a balance between unsuitable high density development and unscalable low density development. It enables diverse needs to be met by an architecture of engagement and represents a step toward a social housing system that will build a stronger Aotearoa New Zealand for tomorrow.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130101 Design

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Willocks, Victoria